“Avoid clichés like the plague.”

Will Crawley passes on William Safire’s wise counsel on the “rules”. From Will and Testament

Safire has died, aged 79. Inevitably, the first line of his obituary mentions his role as a speechwriter for Richard Nixon, and the first line of an obituary should aim to note a figures principle accomplishment in life. In fact, Safire’s greatest achievement was his work as a speechwriter for the English language. Amongst Safire’s rules for the proper use of English are these: ‘Remember to never split an infinitive. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors. Proofread carefully to see if you words out. Avoid clichés like the plague. And don’t overuse exclamation marks!!’

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  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Pete, really interesting – and a heck of a lot of archive to explore.

  • Rory Carr

    A footnote to Salfire’s obituary might reflect upon how little attention was paid to his ‘rules’ as evidenced by any cursory browse through readers’ contributions to any local newspaper or (dare I say?) popular blog site.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    re. “And don’t overuse exclamation marks”

    One being an overuse – what is the point of it – except to suggest to your patronised readers that they have missed something that you, being cleverer than them, consider really worthy of their attention – so they should go back and fully apreciate it armed with this new information.

    p.s. I do like the old “-” though.

  • joeCanuck

    Well, it ain’t proper to use a preposition to end a sentence with.